Plástica, Rio de Janeiro, 2009
I have produced my portraits of women who received plastic surgery (known in Brazil as “plástica”) in Rio de Janeiro.
It was important to me to show how medical enhancement has arrived in a developing country with serious problems, such as violence, inequality and an underfunded public health system. Since the nineties credit plans have made plastic surgery more accessible in the private sector, while public hospitals offer free or discounted cosmetic operations to what surgeons refer to as the povão, or “common people.”
The women in the pictures are “normal” women. Most work at low income jobs such as housemaid, waitress or telephone operator. During interviews with them, I learned that for them physical beauty has become a force to improve their lives, to raise “self-esteem,” and to gain power, control and social and economic success.
For me as a photographer it was important to show the women in an intimate situation and their post-operative bodies. Plastic surgery is a violent intervention and I preferred to show it as it is. Yet I aimed to capture the hope for a better life and the mix of vulnerability and confidence these women expressed after having surgery. Here lies the real beauty of these women to me.
Please find a commentary by anthropologist Alexander Edmonds for the exhibition catalog of “LLL” in Kunstverein Celle.